TagData Contract Serializer


DataContractSerializer made its first appearance with release of WCF but can operate outside WCF.

DataContractSerializer can serialize types decorated with DataContract, MessageContract, Serializable attributes, types that implement IXmlSerialisable and all public types without Attributes.

During serialization Reference integrity is by default not preserved. You can preserve it by setting “IsReference = true” to DataContract attribute. Note that this approach my cause problems if DataContractSerializer is not serializer who will deserialize data.


You can also use OnSerializing, OnSerialized, OnDeserializing, OnDeserialized Attributes to fine-grain your serialization process.

This tutorial will explain how to serialize and deserialize types by decorating type with DataContract attribute.

First we use need to add reference to System.Runtime.Serialization. Secondly we decorate the type with DataContract Attribute, and inside type wee decorate fields and properties with DataMember Attribute. Then we instantiate DataContractSerializer instance and use its WriteObject and ReadObject methods to serialize/deserialize data.

Example of DataContractSerializer:

By using DataMember Attribute we can serialize automatic properties, because property itself will be serialized and not its backing field.

Because DataContractSerializer does not store type and assembly information we need to tell it which is the type we wish to serialize by specifying type in the DataContractSerializer constructor.

As no type or assembly information are preserved be sure to supply KnownType  Attribute to your base class to be able to use inheritance properly.


Data Contract Serializer


You can download solution from this link.

To return to other serialization techniques return to this location.

Serialization and Deserialization

Serialization is the process of transforming an object or object graph
into a stream of bytes or text. Similarly,  deserialization is the process of transforming bytes into an object or object graph.

Object graph: In computer science, in an object-oriented program, groups of objects form a network through their relationships with each other—either through a direct reference to another object or through a chain of intermediate references. These groups of objects are referred to as object graphs.

So, object graph can be a single List of string, entire class or even state of application.

Usage of serialization can wary, weather you want to communicate between two applications on one PC, save state of an Application on your local hard-drive or maybe in cloud… possibilities are endless.

What can I serialize?

You cannot serialize methods or delegates, but you can serialize fields and properties. That is why we can use DTO models (Data transferable models). DTO models are classes with properties that represent data that we want to represent. You have seen some examples so far, like Employee class.

To make this class more readable you could just add DTO suffix after Employee and everybody would know that this is an DTO class.

We will inspect how to serialize and deserialize data by using:

  1. Binary serialization,
  2. Custom serialization,
  3. XML Serializer,
  4. JSON Serializer,
  5. Data Contract Serializer

Among these XML Serializer and JSON Serializer are the most common ones but as we progress between each one of them you will see that other serialization mechanisms have their usage.


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